Amy in Peru: An Odyssey

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Huancayo and Huancavelica

(pics: view of huancavelica, andes during the drive, view of Huancayo from my hotel, carmen and I playing spanish scrabble) I have finally made it to my final destination for my CUSO placement, but before launching into my first impressions of my home for the next two years, I thought I would give a bit of detail on the journey here. And a bit of housekeeping: yes, lesley, i do read my comments, all of them. So thank you for making the comments--- especially when they involve nana's and/or constant reminders to post pictures. (I know i keep saying i am going to post them, but things are just too hectic and chaotic right now-- i anticipate having my head screwed on right to get some pics posted when i have a place to live. However, suffice it to say i do indeed have a pcture of an alpaca.... but i digress a touch...)

So we left Lima early saturday morning, and took the 7 hour bus ride as far as Huancayo. The altitude was an issue, but not overwhelming (ie: Carmen was telling me stories of people throwing up, etc... so I count myself lucky). We arrived and literally crashed. Couldn't even carry our bags--- thank goodness for kind taxi drivers and hotel staff--- I was having trouble carrying my purse without feeling dizzy and winded! Amazing the effect on the body-- a unique experience. Headachy, short of breath, exhausted-- maybe i was having a mild heart attack instead? :)

After a 3 hour nap, we decided to take a very slow walk around the plaza (which was right beside our hotel--- AWESOME hotel, for a great price--- called Los Balcones (on Calle Puno) if anyone is ever in the city. Is not in the Guide books, but should be--- wonderful location and very comfortable rooms.) We almost stopped our walk in the lobby of the hotel, since the elevator trip down kinda winded us... but we persevered... :) Had a very light dinner and drank LOTS of coca tea, which is the recommended remedy for soroche, or altitude sickness.

Huancayo is a really nice city--- i got a very good vibe. Not at all like Lima, much smaller, etc...-- but there is lots going on as we found out the next day when we were almost mowed over by a bunch of military people and parade floats. Celebrations abound in smaller communities in the sierra, I have been told, and on Sunday Huancayo was celebrating some saint-- didn't catch which one--- but there were bands playing and kids singing and giant pictures drawn with sand and clay in the closed-off streets around the plaza. We also almost crashed a solemn church service, where they were replacing the saint back into its nook in the local church--- whoops!Sunday is also market day in Huancayo, so we spent a few hours wandering around there. Not a lot of veggies--- but tons of alpaca stuff, shoes, clothes (both traditional peruvian and western), and the huancayo specialty, elaborately decorated gourds. Beautiful! Also took advanatge of being in the closest city to Huancavelica to search around a bit for the grocery store, farmacia, etc... Even got a quick game of scrabble in (ahah! couldn't resist--- even took a pic!)--- though we played in spanish which was a challenge.... eep!!

Monday morning, we got a driver to take us the rest of the way up to Huancavelica. We thought we left at a good time, and the roads were good and we were scooting along, until we got to a small little place that starts with an I--- can't remember--- but we had a delay of 1 1/2 hours there because the ighway was being repaired... whoops... so after a mate in one of the smokiest rooms i have ever been in (smoke from the wood stove--- and we were by the door-- i pity the cook!), the road opened and were able to continue pr journey, which consisted of 80 KMs of mud... what a trek. However, though it was bumpy, it was also spectacular--- i took some pics out of the car window--- surreal doesn't begin to describe driving along the cliffs in the andes, hugging the curves to avoid hitting the donkeys and llamas, driving through clouds, which were resting on some of the peaks we were driving on. Stunningly bizarre.

Anyway, after the last big peak, when I couldn't imagine being able to settle down to earth after driving in the clouds, we looked down in the vally to Huancavelica. It was a bigger town from that view than I expected, but also about as rough as I expected. Not a lot of cars at all so no beeping taxis which was nice. A few paved roads, but generally things here are unpaved, or crumbling. Lots of people around that main plaza (which is where our hotel is, which is convenient), roaming dogs which unnerve me a bit, had a spectacular lunch of lomo saltado (my best meal so far i think), and went to try to find the EDUCA office. After some crossed paths, we all found each other, and I had an inital orienting meeting with Oscar and Alina, whom I will be working with here. Incredibly welcoming and friendly-- I anticipate this to be a very good working relationship.

So now am trying to get oriented, keep asking people if they know of places to rent, but so far have come up empty (eep!), another meeting with all of us together for lunch before Carmen, my intrepid and omnipotent travel companion, leaves to go back to Lima tonight. However, I will be kept busy. Early Thursday morning, myself and the EDUCA people are going away for three days to attend some meetings in some more rural communities. Yikes! Hit the ground running, anyone? Will post more when I am back after saturday night, but I anticiate that it will be a great introduction to the work being done, and a great way to bond a bit with my new coworkers.

So i will sign off. It is indeed cold, but not unbearable so far, the housing situation continues to give me ulcers, the food is good despite my indigestion, and i am feeling a touch culture shocked. But all in all, am doing fine, for being at 3700 meters above sea level in the Andes of Peru... holy freg....

Keep in touch! :)

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I will be leaving Lima very shortly, so I thought I would try to condense some of my thoughts on my experiences past, present and future before heading to the hills (these lists are in no particular order really):

Ten things I will miss about Lima
1. The variety of things to do, places to visit, historical sites, etc...
2. Parrots in the trees (seriously.... either they are native or they have escaped from someone's house, but there is a park near my hostal crawling with them-- i love it!)
3. The people I have met
4. The people I could have met
5. Cheap taxis
6. The architecture, especially downtown
7. NORKY'S (and all of the other little restaurants i have come to haunt)
8. Music in Parque Miraflores
9. random archeological sites in the middle of the city (such ancient sites in the middle of an urban jungle--- talk about contrasts!)
10. The ocean

Ten things I will not miss about Lima
1. The construction in front of my hostel (and it is of the sewer to boot--- stinky and loud--- doesn't get much more obnoxious than that--- plus there is just a lot of construction everywhere)
2. The men and their cat calls, stares, grabs and general ridiculousness--- makes me sick and crazy
3. The constant chorus of car alarms and beeping horns
4. Dog poop on the sidewalks
5. Not being able to walk around by myself at night
6. Telenovelas
7. intestinal infections
8. the hugeness of the city
9. smog and pollution
10. the lack of sun (so far, we have had zero, goose-egg, nada days of sun-- constantly cloudy and hazy)

Ten things I assume I will continue enjoying and/or new things to enjoy in Huancavelica
1. Languages--- continuing with Spanish and starting to learn Quechua--- wooo hoo!
2. Finally starting work (I can't believe I have already been here almost a month and have done nothing but take classes!)
3. Deepening my understanding of the history and culture of Peru, particularly the indigenous piece of that history and culture
4. More potatoes
5. New people to meet
6. Clean air (and not blowing my nose and having black gook on the kleenex--- gross!)
7. llamas and alpacas! Need I say more?
8. Living in a community instead of a city
9. Mountains! Big giant mountains!
10. increasing my lung capacity

Monday, September 18, 2006


Buenas dias! Today marks the end of my spanish classes at El Sol-- it has been a great experience, and I would recommend that school to anyone interested in learning spanish in south america (and no--- I get no commission for saying this...or do I? he he he). To the left is a pic of my classmates, Brittany and bill from the states, and to the right is one of my teachers, Celia, who was AMAZING! Also, to the right is a pic of the parque Miraflores, which I refer to below (the pics do not want to go where I put them--- jerks!!)

The other reason for the title of this post is to talk a bit about my experience on Saturday, visiting a school in San Juan de Lurigancho, as mentioned earlier one of the poorest and densely populated barrios of Lima (a million people!).

The trip San Juan itself was interesting. We were worried w would have to ask a few cab drivers before we could find one who would take us, as is usualapparently, but we were lucky on our first try. And the drive to the barrio itself was quite a study in contrasts---we started out in a fairly nice part of Lima, near the EDUCA office, with relatively secure houses, plants and quiet more or less. Then we made our way to the centre of Lima, and then things started getting dirtier,the air got smoggier, but still beautiful architecture, etc... As we got closer to the hills and into San Juan de Lurigancho, you were greeted with a good look at the shanty towns that have sprung up, hundreds of thousands of people living on a mountainside, precariously perched on what looks like just dirt instead of rock---I would be terrified of a mudslide, but apparently they have been there for decades (which is also not surprising in a way, as many of the 'houses' look like they are in a sad state of disrepair).

Anyway, as we made our way into the barrio, things were much more run-down than I have seen in other parts of the city since I have been here (garbage, dirt, abandoned-looking buildings, etc...), though we did pass the ever-present McDonald's--- can you imagine?! There has been some trees and grass planted recently in the medians, I was told to help make the place look nicer and hopefully get people to take more pride in it. I have to admit a bit of green made a difference in my head. I wonder if it makes a difference for the people who live there?

We arrived at the school, which was hosting an educational exchange, talking about all of the interesting educational projects going on in San Juan de Lurigancho. I sat mainly in a session which talked about different policies and projects in getting kids to read, and about learning partnerships between teachers and students (ie: giving more autonomy to students). Very interesting for me, and I enjoyed being a part of so much positive energy and excitement. The whole experience, beyond being a lesson in the levels of poverty that this city suffers from, was also a great bit of inspiration to get the wheels in my head turning as I start thinking about what will be happening in Huancavelica.

Outside of that rather formative experience, I spent Sunday touring around a bit---took a touristy 1 hour bus tour around Miraflores (for only 5 soles--about 1.50$) which I actually enjoyed--- reminded me a lot of our tours around NY dad! Nilou, who will be staying in Lima for her CUSO position, found an apartment, so I helped get her set up a bit that evening. Her apartment is out of the this world---we were joking that her living conditions will definately not make it in to the CUSO brochure!! :) This weekend I also signed up with the somewhat expat but potentially useful group called South American Explorers ( Had a few travel reports on Huancavelica which were usefulto leaf through, and also has a book exchange which I intend on taking full advantage of! :)

Anyway, so that is about all I have to update for now. Again, will post some pics soon so keep checking back. May also add some pics to previous posts, so you might want to leaf through---in any case I will let people know. Asfor upcoming stuff, the rest of this week will be consumed by getting ready for the trek up to the mountains, and tying up some loose ends, a few meetings, maybe trying to watch a movie or something--- get a little pop culture in before I am more isolated. We shall see. Keep in touch, and hope all is well with everyone!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Spanish wheels keep on turning...

So i have been chastized for my slow updates, and am now dutifully writing another post. This week has rolled along fairly slowly for me in terms of recuperating, and also marks the end of my spanish classes, which have been great for the most part (you can check out the school website at: if you are interested) I also have my computer back and the internet seems to be working fine now, so I should hopefully have some of my photos uploaded soon. In the meantime, please enjoy these random ones!! :)

I am not going to bore people with the litany of health stuff, but suffice it to say I have been treated like a daughter by the CUSO ladies (Charo especially), and I feel so lucky to have gone through this with such support. Generally speaking this week, it has taken a while to feel confident to eat (i am still feeling icky about half of the time, and often have to skip meals because of nausea, or cramps--- crazy!!) and i am still trying not to be so exhausted, but am finding it hard to catch up on sleep and generally feel 100%. However, I am able to eat solid food now most of the time, and i assume things will work themselves out soon and i will be back to normal soon. Have been drinking lots of mate and cocoa tea, as per suggestions, and hope that it helps!!

Outside of the physical ridiculousness, the week has been good, if busy. Outside of classes, i have attended several meetings this week, one of which was a very interesting panel talk Tuesday night at the Universidad Catholica, which is holding a human rights week. I went to this panel talk (in Spanish) on racsim in Peru with Carmen from CUSO and was happy to have had the opportunity. Basically, the three panelists came at the issue of racism in Peru from a historical perspective, an afro-Peruvian perspective and from a media perspective. Fascinating, and really useful (particluarly the historical one) for understanding a bit more about why things are the way they are today, and what historical roots one has to confront when working on issues of human rights and racsim in Peru.

Wednesday after class, I went to the CUSO office and was treated to my own private lecture on the history and politics of Peru. Another interesting and eye-opening discussion about some of the relevant historical roots (ie: paternalism and hacienda culture, for example, I believe are key to understanding more about the plight and attitudes of people here), and also a great overview of what has gone on lately and how the political system right now keeps cycling around itself. A great compliment, perhaps not surprisingly, to the racism talks the night before.

Thursday after class, I finally got to meet with people from EDUCA. After missing the outing on Sunday because of digestive stuff, I almost had to miss this one suffering from major cramps for some reason, but I went anyway, the cramps got a bit better, and I am really happy i was finally able to meet some people and find out more about what EDUCA does. It is located (like most NGOs here) in a big house in a fairly residential area (and ironically (or not), right in front of a school). Touring around the house and the offices was a lesson in use of space---- they have people crammed into every room, and have even set up offices on the roof of the house!! Every one was very friendly, and excited to meet the gringa going to Huancavelica. Luckily, I was also invited to go with the EDUCA people on Saturday to San Juan de Lurigancho (where I was supposed to go last weekend). I tried to find a link for this barrio, which is basically a shanty town, but they are all in Spanish so I won't bother posting one now. I'll write more about the experience on Sunday or Monday.

At the meeting with EDUCA, I learned a bit more about my placement and what is going on there right now, but mostly I got some info on logistics. Carmen and I will be leaving Lima on Saturday and going as far as Huancayo (which you should be able to find on the map to the left), and will stay there for a day to aclimatize and get used to the altitude, arriving in Huancavelica (also on the map) on Monday, the 25th. Beyond that, I got a bit more info about what EDUCA has been trying to do up there thus far, what has been acomplished, and I was given a broad idea of what the general problems (apathy, violence, poverty, etc...) and goals (education, capacity building, animation and energizing of the community, etc...) are for the area right now. I was also given a mountain of reading material which I will hopefully have a chance to go through next week, as i only have one Spanish class on Monday (I weaseled my way into another class to make up for the one I missed while I was sick) .

Thursday night (last night), Nilou and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at Carmen's house, which was a treat for several reasons. One: We were in a HOME instead of a hotel or a classroom or some other public space. I was so lovely to relax, listen to some music and have a glass of wine in a place so comfortable. Two: the food was great!! I couldn't have a ton with my wonky belly, but Carmen has a woman who comes to cook for her, and she made us a delicious pork dinner! Three: desserts!! We stopped at a bakery before going to her place, and got a bunch of sweets, including one or two traditional things (don't ask me the names now-- i have no idea--- there was a kind of hard cookie-square thing covered in multicolored sprinkles--- weird but good)

Today was the end of Spanish classes, and so to celebrate, the school had those of us leaving come after class for a pisco sour and a little chat. The pisco sour (left) is a traditional Peruvian drink, I am told. It is very sour (hence the name?), and the white foam on top is actually whipped up egg white. I drank with a touch of trepidation for the raw egg white.... but it was a lot of fun and a nice gesture. They also gave me a little pencil and a card signed by my teachers--- very nice touches! :) My spanish, I feel, has definately improved, and I am really glad I got the practice. Had lunch with my classmate Brittany (pics to come) today after picking up my computer and will meet her again tonight for a beer and to celebrate our class together. We got along really well, and I'll miss our conversations (in spanish)!

So that is basically my update for now. Like I say, has been a bit of a rough and busy week, and I apologize for being lax with my updates (lesley). Will write more later on this weekend, after my trip to San Juan de Lurigancho, and as I start trying to get myself organized for the upcoming move to Huancavelica (I am making a list: I want some perfume (things stick a lot here--- need something to mask), more warm clothes (i am going to freeze--- i can tell already), a warm hat and some pills i have been told help with altitude sickness. And as soon as I have an address, I will also be making lists of things to send me (books are first on that list!! Yikes!) Hope all is well with the posse, and keep in touch!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lima strikes back...

... and let me tell you, the Empire has nothing on Lima's 1-2 punch. (my view for three days, to the left) I have been knocked on my butt for the last 4 days, since thursday afternoon, with what can only be described as Montezuma's evil cousin. I have never had such a nasty stomach bug!! Well actually, apparently intestinal infection, which is what i was diagnosed with on Friday when taken to a private emergency clinic.

All of this was preciptated by some shakes Thursday morning, which i mistakenly thought had to do with the very strong coffee I bought to keep me awake during spanish classes. However, as the afternoon wore on, it soon became apparent that any hope that the shakes were going to pass without incident was a pipe dream. By Thursday night i was in full-on fever (I was at 39 degrees on Friday!), with tremendous shakes--- wow!! As a somewhat ridiculous sidenote, I spent some of that time wondering how potentially funny it might look to see me shaking that much under so many blankets... but I digress...

So Friday morning came and i was worse off than the night before, so Nilou called Charo (one of the CUSO office staff), who took me to an emergency clinic. And here is where i will compare the public system in Canada (which i love and want preserved) with the p├║blic/private bfsplit that is going on here. Now apparently no one goes to the public system if they can help it--- it takes forever, the care is poor and people are literally dying waiting to be seen to and treated. Deeply and desperatly unequal, and a tragedy. However, if they could turn the private system into a well-run public one (both here and in Canada), it would be a monument to public health. We walked in and were attended to immediately (and not just because i am a foreigner). Lots of tests were done, including blood and urine, and we got the lab results back in 40 minutes. Then with the diagnosis, they started me on an IV (my first ever--- not too exciting, but a new experience all the same), got my prescriptions sorted and got me out the door all hydrated and with the first course of antibiotics coursing through my veins, all within a few hours. I was impressed. (of course, perhaps I would have been less impressed if I had to pay--- it was all covered by my medical insurance, thank god)

I was feeling a lot better after the visit, and was hopeful that this would pass quickly. But here I am, 4 days later, still sick-y poo (and when I say poo, you get the drift), and with the lovely added layer, this mornnig, of vomiting also. Wonderful. Nothing better after not having eaten for 4 days to then throw up a mixture of powerade and stomach acid... wow!! Whets my appetite! I can't wait to start eating again! (ugh)

So obviously i am a tad bitter at having to be laid up for so long, but what can one do? I missed classes (obviously) on Friday, and also missed a trip to the national museum on saturday, and a rrip with EDUCA today. I am really hoping I feel well enough to take the 20 minute walk to class tomorrow, but am unsure, as i am exhausted after walking to the corner to the bodega to grab my next hit of powerade. So we shall see.

This little health incident also puts questions into my head about when I will be heading up to Huancavelica. I feel like I should be at a pretty healthy level before trying to attempt to aclimatize to those altitudes. But after not having eaten in so long, and having just generally been put through the ringer by this thing, I am nervous about attempting to go up before I am thoroughly ready. Will keep the blog updated with info on that.

So that has pretty much been my life since my last posting. Aside from the car ride to the clinic and back, and my infrequent excursions to get hydration, I have been chained to my hostel room, or perhaps more accurately the toilet in the bathroom of my hostel room. (thank the freg I have a private room--- i pity anyone who would have to share with me in this state!) Not a very exciting post, but I thought some (leah in particular?) might be interested to hear about the private health clinics here, and how efficient they work. Before you get defensive--- don't worry!! I'm not for a minute saying that we should get rid of the public system at all! But maybe there is something to be said for establishing small, fully functional public-system funded clinics that are completely self-sufficient in some ways (re: lab, x-rays, pharmacy), but close to a hospital for surgury and other things. Just a thought. Feel free to send me a scathing email. :)

Hope all is well with those of you who continue to read/comment! And a shout-out to Grammie, who doesn't have a computer, but who I know is being given copies of the postings to be kept in the loop. I miss our weekly lunch dates, and hope your garden is doing well--- I am sure you are feating on the many tomatoes that were getting ready to ripen before I left! Love to all, and keep in touch!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Still in Lima and all is well!

A quick update on what has been happening of late. (Okay--- so this is long, as usual--- what can I say? Well, I guess I could say less, but where's the fun in that??)

The weekend was less relaxing than I expected but that is a good thing. Carmen, one of the CUSO office workers, picked us up early Saturday and we toured around on foot around the center of Lima. We started off at the old site of the University of Lima, which held a variety of functions (including a monestary in its early days) since it was built back in the 1500s. It is actually the site of the oldest university in the Americas, and we had a really interesting tour of the grounds. We then took a "cafecita" (coffee) at a once-fancy hotel off the Plaza San Miguel (photos pending). I say once-fancy because the center of Lima, which was once the hub of the city and a safe, clean and hopping place, is now quite unsafe, and a lot of its former majesty has been lost to crime and poverty. An interesting contrast, to see such largesse and so many grande buildings abandonded. They are apparently trying to bring it back by enticing new businesses and banks to move back into the area, but so far it looks like their efforts have not been too fruitful.

Anyway, we had a very nice afternoon walking around, exploring the downtown area. We also hit a beautiful church with caracombs (forget the name--- will add it here later) and had a great tour. It was a franciscan church, so had all of the catholic trappings of saints and crucifixes, monks and mary's galore. And some amazing architecture, most of which was in a sad state of disrepair.

We then decided to go for a 180 degree switch, and had another coffee later on that evening at Larcomar, back in our neighbourhood of Miraflores. It is a basically a fancy-pants open-air mall on a cliff facing the beaches of Lima, complete with overpriced cafes with AMAZING views, a bungee jump and a mechanical elephant (don't ask... I didn't) A lovely end to a lovely day (despite some inevitable tackiness in the mall--- they even had a bunch of american restaurant chains--- barf!)

Sunday was spent lounging around, and trying to get a few little things done here and there. I did some laundry, which it turns out is not a great idea unless you have either: (a) a dryer, or (b) a lot of time to wait. It is now 4 days later, and most of it is still not dry, which is crazy in my books!!

Which brings me to some of my general observations on the weather. I have been here for 9 days now and have yet to see the sun--- wow!! It is perpetually gray, and always feels like it is about to rain but never does rain. The humidity is incredible (hence the ever-wet clothes), and it really can get quite chilly in the evenings. Even as I am writing this, my nose and fingers are quite cold to the touch--- an unexpected thing for me, and makes me a bit nevous about the cold in Huancavelica... :)

Anyway, aside from these general observations, this week has been pretty much consumed by spanish classes. I am taking them from a great little school about a 20 minute walk from the hostel, called El Sol. It is only me and another girl (from the states and very nice) in the class, so there is lots of interaction and practice, and everyone at the school is very nice (and suprisingly lots of Germans--- in fact I have met a tonn of Germns--- more than from any other western country!). My spanish is slowly but surely coming back to me, and i am really enjoying and appreciating brushing up on the language. It also helps that aside from the woman who is here with me, no one really speaks English, so pretty much all your time is spent trying to make yourself understood--- great practice! The school also has cultural excusions/classes in the aftrernoons which is fun. Yesterday i went with some people to an ancient pyramid in the centre of San Isidrio (another neighbourhood near Miraflores) that was fascinating really---- layers of civilizations within the pyramid, dating back to 600 BCE. Friday we have a cooknig class which should be fun too!

Another thing planned for the coming days is on Sunday, where I will be accompanying the director of EDUCA (Betty Evans) on a trip to visit one of their other projects near Lima. I don't have a lot of information on it right now, but will fill things in as it becomes clearer on my end. So things continue to move along, and I can hardly believe tomorrow is Thursday and my spanish classes will be coming to an end in a little over a week and I will be moving up to the mountains---- time is bombing by!!

A couple of parting notes, or what I will call "Notes from a confused foreigner":

- a strange thing to notice, perhaps, but all the same, the napkins here are TINY!!! When you eat dinner, you get a little toilet-paper sqare sized piece of napkin, which is also about as thin as toilet paper. Not very absorbant or wipe-ish... :)

- this one is for Lesley---- there are a ton of chicken places to eat at here, but one I have not been to yet but desperately want to go to is called... wait for it... NORKY'S!!!! I LOVE this name, and have proceeded to turn this into a multi-purpose adjective. Someone says something stupid? That's a norky thing to say. You drop your pen? Honest to nork! Somone does something great? Norktastic!! I tell you--- it's a linguistic revolution (and I hope the chicken is as good as the name....)

- Inca Cola is a very popular drink here and is everywhere, but to me it looks like pee and tastes like liquid bubblegum. Ick.

- it is cheaper to eat out than buy groceries. You can get a three course lunch, with drink, for 6 soles, or abuot 2 dollars. I don't know how people make a profit, but whatever!! I am thoroughly enjoying it (especially since I don't have a fridge so have to eat out more than usual)

Okay--- enough for now. Happy Wednesday!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday night and all is well!

So--- the work week is over and the weekend is here. And I can't believe i have only been here four days---- stunning!! Life can be so empty and slow and pass like water through a sieve, and then can also be so full and rich and alive that you don't know where one experience stopped and the next started. Things become pictures of time instead of seconds or minutes or hours--- there is too much in any one moment to seperate time out into pieces.

Anyway, i'm getting a touch esoteric (surprise, surprise). I have just come off of another rich, interesting, exhausting and enjoyable day, having capped off the week with a beautiful dinner in the main plaza of Miraflores, outside at a sidewalk cafe, trying new ways to eat potatoes (again! Who knew there were so many--- this will take me months!), enjoying some delicious mango juice, while the life of Lima flows past, music mixed with traffic, people wandering around eating churros and enjoying the evening, me watching my purse like a hawk, but getting used to doing that. Sigh! This is the way to spend a friday night!

I am feeling relaxed and content despite the craziness of this city and all that has been going on, and so grateful and lucky for everything I am doing and seeing, even though it is not all pleasant--- however most of it is, thus far. The people are amazing, the city is frenetic, and most of all the pace of settling into my placement for CUSO and EDUCA is a dream! Our hands are being held when we need it (being accompanied when trying to navigate initially, opening accounts, etc...), but we are being pushed out of the nest when it is appropriate as well (took the dirty stinky combi alone yesterday--- almost got lost, but in the end it went fine! Woo hoo!). I am so thankful to have this kind of support in starting this experience, and for people taking the time to make sure that I will more easily be able to do what I came here to do. Wonderful!

This weekend, on saturday we will be taking a walking tour of the downtown core with one of the women from the office, and will generally be getting some bearings of the city outside of the districts with which we are already familiar. It will be impossible to be familiar with all of them in any meaningful way (in a city of 8 million, one has limits), but the old part of Lima will be nice to get familiar with, and I am LOVING Miraflores--- will try to do some more exploring here too. Sunday, am going to try to have a bit of down time--- do some laundry (a stupid bird pooped on me--- memories of Amsterdam where I was pooped on several times--- what is it with me and birds?!), read a bit and get ready to face the next week, which begins with the start of spanish classes on Monday (and every day for four hours a day). Will also be meeting next week more formally with EDUCA, along with other meetings and information sessions. Fun fun!

So all in all, things are going really well and I am happy and healthy and enjoying the pace, the context, the people and the experiences of Lima. Looking forward to making my way up to Huancavelica eventually, but will be enjoying my time here while I can!